2012 Summary: Bulldog Baseball Builds on Program's History during 101st Season
The 2012 edition of Bulldog baseball entered the program's 101st season with high expectations after their historic 2011 campaign. The Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's 2012 Preseason Poll slotted Redlands as the No. 15 team nationally, which was the third-highest team in the West Region. Although the season came up short of a repeat NCAA tournament appearance from a year ago, the Maroon and Gray put together a solid effort that saw many team successes and great individual performances.
With a 20-20 overall record, Redlands completed the campaign with 20 or more wins for the eighth straight year under Head Coach Scott Laverty. In addition, the Bulldogs battled to a 13-15 showing in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action to take sixth place in a highly-competitive group of baseball teams.
The Bulldogs started off their season with a bang, routing the Austin College Kangaroos, 13-3, in a game that saw senior third baseman Jason Henning (Redlands, CA) and sophomore center fielder Alex Scheiwe (Encinitas, CA) tally three hits apiece. D3baseball.com Preseason All-American senior shortstop Chase Tucker (Poway, CA) notched a team-high three RBI on the game when he smacked a bases-clearing triple to deep center in the Bulldogs' eight-run sixth inning. On the mound, junior pitcher Kyle Hart (Burbank, CA) picked up right where he left off in 2011 by notching his first victory of the year, going six strong innings while allowing only two earned runs on eight hits.
After narrowly losing to No. 2 Chapman University, Redlands swept away NAIA opponent La Sierra University to move to 3-1 on the season. Senior designated hitter Ben Saunders (New River, AZ) provided the heroics in game one of the double header, lacing a single down the left-field line to bring home sophomore pinch runner Max Hardman (Encinitas, CA) for the winning run in the 10-9 victory. The nightcap saw the Maroon and Gray put on a hit parade as 16 total hits were recorded in a 14-0 victory over the Golden Eagles. Freshman third baseman Sam Johnson (Apple Valley, CA) and freshman right fielder Nathaniel Acosta (Chino Hills, CA) both launched their inaugural, collegiate long balls in the nine-run first inning en route to the Maroon and Gray's easy win.
The Bulldogs gained experience against tough NAIA opponent Azusa Pacific University before beginning their defense of the SCIAC title. Things didn't go quite as planned in the opening weekend of conference play, as the squad endured three defeats by a combination of five runs at the hands of Occidental College. Not fazed by the rough start, the Maroon and Gray bounced back the following weekend, taking two of three from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges while winning the rubber match by a score of 11-10 in 10 innings. This time, it was senior first baseman Jon Cavender (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) who came up clutch for Redlands when he lined a ball into the right-center gap for the winning, walk-off hit.
After dropping two games to the University of La Verne Leopards, Redlands nabbed two of three wins from Cal Lutheran University.
By the middle of March, the Bulldogs worked to gain a little momentum in non-conference competition before heading into the rest of SCIAC play. The California Invite welcomed that opportunity as Redlands hosted four out-of-state teams at the picturesque Yard. Despite dropping the first game in controversial fashion, the Bulldogs rebounded quickly and took care of the next three opponents. Senior pitcher Adam Byrd (Bullhead City, AZ) headlined the weekend's games by tossing a six-inning, complete-game shutout against Berry College (GA) on the way to the squad's 7-0 triumph.
Senior pitcher Josh Snyder (Denver, CO) starred against No. 9 Eastern Connecticut State the following day, earning his first win of the season by going five scoreless innings while allowing only three hits in a 3-0 win. At the plate, freshman right fielder Connor Hancock (Burbank, CA) impressed with two hits and one RBI.
The Bulldogs closed out the Cal Invite by downing the Ithaca College Bombers, 6-5, in a game that included three hits and two runs scored by Scheiwe.
With a near-perfect record during the tournament, Redlands gained the honor of Cal Invite champion for 2012.
Back in SCIAC competition, the Bulldogs answered a first-game loss to the Poets of Whittier College with what was perhaps their most exciting comeback of the season. Down two runs in the top of the ninth inning during the first game of the twin bill, senior left fielder Trenton Lively (La Verne, CA) stroked a two-out, two-strike double into the left-center gap, keeping the Bulldogs' chances alive. Rookie third baseman Sean McMillan (Redwood City, CA) then singled Lively home during the next at-bat, cutting the deficit to one. Junior Eliot Smith (West Linn, OR) followed suit by stepping up to the dish and launching a towering two-run bomb over the high, right-field wall to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game. Smith moved from first base to the mound in the bottom half of the frame and shut down the Poets to earn his second and possibly most important save of the year. Redlands used that momentum to cruise past the Poets in the second game of the doubleheader, 5-1.
After dropping the next series to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, Redlands got back on track against Caltech with a high-scoring sweep of the Beavers. Game one of the series saw Tucker crush a couple of triples for six RBI and two runs scored. In addition, Acosta connected on a two-run shot in the 17-5 trouncing. The second game included some solid pitching out of junior Paul Dippel (East Granby, CT) as he earned his second win of the 2012 campaign while dispersing two hits and allowing no runs in five innings of work from the mound in the 9-1 victory. Twelve Bulldogs tallied at least one hit in another offensive explosion during the final game of the series. McMillan tattooed a three-run long ball and notched four RBI to go along with junior outfielder Marcus Himelhoch's (Portland, OR) two hits and three runs in the 15-3 triumph.
With the conference season coming to a close, the Bulldogs needed to win out and receive some help in order to repeat their conference-championship performance from a year ago. The Maroon and Gray still needed to face each SCIAC team one more time, allowing for rematches and upsets.
Despite some spectacular defensive plays and a solid performance at the plate from Scheiwe, Redlands faced an early hole against Occidental College that proved to be too much. The Bulldog second-year center fielder went 2-for-3 at the dish and made a couple of diving catches, but to no avail as the Maroon and Gray came up short to the explosive Tigers.
Despite faltering to the Stags of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Redlands rallied to take down the first-place Leopards of La Verne in an exciting 10-8 performance. Himelhoch was a team-best 2-for-3 with four RBI and two runs scored in a game that got the Bulldogs back to .500 in SCIAC action.
Following a tough three-game losing streak, Redlands faced its final SCIAC foe in Caltech and captured an 11-2 thumping of Caltech for the Maroon and Gray's fourth victory of the season over the Beavers. McMillan led the Bulldogs with four RBI, while Lively added to his personal hit-total for the year by tallying three on the afternoon.
A three-game stint with Chapman concluded the Bulldogs' 2012 campaign, with the opening game of the series belonging to the Bulldogs on Senior Day. The Maroon and Gray trailed by a score of 4-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but that's when the rally started. Lively, McMillan, and Tucker each got on base, lining up a pinch-hit grand slam by Himelhoch for the Bulldogs' 5-4 lead. The squad held on for the exciting victory over this familiar, regional rival.
Beyond the wins and losses, the Bulldogs garnered various post-season awards to further illustrate the program's success in 2012. After an impressive senior campaign, Lively headlined a trio of All-SCIAC honorees by earning First-Team honors for his inaugural such award in his second and final season with the Maroon and Gray. Lively also represented the University of Redlands on the 2012 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-West Region Third Team.
Tucker and Byrd both collected Second-Team All-SCIAC nods for their efforts throughout the season. The honor was Tucker's third in three years, with this being his first time landing on the Second Team. Byrd earned his first All-SCIAC honor as the team's top pitcher in conference action.
While bringing a competitive effort to every outing en route to exciting wins and individual accolades, the Bulldog baseball team completed yet another successful season under Head Coach Scott Laverty. Although it will be no easy task to return to the top of the SCIAC, the Bulldogs sit in good shape to do just that. The returning core of players looks forward to the influx of talented youth, as the Maroon and Gray strives to build upon the lessons learned from this season with perspective and persistence.